Labour conference: Funding of care and support is ‘at top of agenda’


The funding of care and support for disabled and older people is now firmly at “the top of the political agenda”, according to Labour’s former health secretary.

Andy Burnham told a Labour conference fringe event organised by the Care and Support Alliance that he was “unshakeable” in his view that there needed to be a “National Care Service” to run alongside the National Health Service.

Burnham said such a service should be free at the point of use and that funding it through a “care levy” on people’s estates after they die – an idea attacked by the Conservatives before the election – was “the fairest way to reform social care”.

And he said it was “wonderful” that the new Labour leader, Ed Miliband, had said that a National Care Service was an idea that he wanted to explore.

Shadow health minister Barbara Keeley told another conference fringe event that spending cuts would lead to most councils restricting care only to those with “critical needs”.

She said local authorities were tightening eligibility, cutting services and introducing higher charges. She added: “In some cases, all of these are happening.”

Richard Howitt MEP, Labour’s spokesman on disability in the European parliament, said some people had warned that social care would be “reduced to an emergency service”.

Meanwhile, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said this week that it had closed eight agencies providing care and support in people’s homes, and 34 care homes, in the last year.

In six cases, CQC issued a legal notice to close the service. In the other cases, the owners closed or sold the service following CQC enforcement action.

Problems included verbal and psychological abuse of service-users, poor hygiene and a lack of medical and nursing care.

Another 51 services – including 11 agencies providing care in people’s homes and one agency providing nursing care – closed after the CQC rated them as “poor” and demanded improvement.

The CQC’s new registration system launches this week (1 October) for adult social care services, and includes new “essential standards of quality and safety”.

The commission said this system would be “even tougher on poor care, with a wider range of enforcement powers”, including on-the-spot fines, warning notices and suspension of registration, as well as prosecution and closure.

29 September 2010

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